Randy Moss: 'I've always wanted to be normal'

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Randy Moss: 'I've always wanted to be normal'

NEW ORLEANS - "I've always wanted to be normal," Randy Moss said Tuesday from a podium in the Louisiana Superdome.

During Media Day at Super Bowl XVVII, Moss wore a 49ers hat cocked to the side, a scrubby growth of beard and a wry smile for an hour of give-and-take with the media.

An unusual player, an unusual guy happily trapped for 60 minutes, giving his Moss-ian world view.

If he'd been like this more often -- less prickly with the media, making a greater effort to endear himself -- maybe he'd be lionized like Ray Lewis. But Moss is going to do what Moss is going to do. Remaining real -- i.e., his own man at all times -- hasn't made his life any easier. But it has made him one of the more compelling NFL players in terms of impact on the game, younger players and fans.

He is beloved and the people who like him least are the people he held court for on Tuesday.

"I live for myself," Moss said when I asked him why he's been so reluctant to share himself. "The thing about the media is that, everything is not said and the truth is not always told. I grew up respecting myself. I do respect other people. But when it comes to the pen and pad that you guys are writing on right now, it's just . . . you got a job to do and papers to sell. I've never come off negative. A lot of people see my focus. I don't like anything that comes outside of football to get in the way of the game."

If you parse his words, you can certainly find times in Moss' 15-year career where he's let things outside football get in the way. But those have been the exceptions, not the rule.

He's generally been about football and being with his teammates. Not selling himself or being seen at clubs or currying endorsements. Those attendant sidelights that some players embrace are, according to Moss, irritations.

"I love the game, I love to play in between the white lines," he said. "It's like a kid at school. You're sitting in the classroom and the teacher says it's recess and that door opens and all the kids just go running and screaming and jumping on swing sets and swinging. That's how I try to treat the football.

"Anytime that I step on the field, that's when I feel free," Moss added. "I can do anything I want, act any way I want because you're having fun and it's all a game. It's just like you and me sitting down to play a game of Monopoly. I love to compete and keep it near my heart."

At one point Tuesday, Moss described himself as the NFL's greatest receiver of all time.

Jerry Rice could make a convincing case otherwise. And Rice did recommend on Tuesday that Moss check the numbers. But Moss may well be, as Tom Brady often described him, the greatest downfield threat in NFL history.

In 218 regular-season NFL games, Moss has made 982 catches for 15,292 yards with 156 touchdowns. In 14 playoff games, he's caught another 52 balls for 936 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his only previous Super Bowl, the ill-fated SB42 with the Patriots, Moss caught the go-ahead touchdown for the Patriots with 2:42 remaining.

While Lewis figuratively rides his chariot down Bourbon Street to celebrate the end of his Hall of Fame career, Moss toils on. On Tuesday, he said he wants to keep playing.

Why not jump spend the week referencing his own "legacy," as Lewis did Tuesday without a trace of self-awareness?

"That's not me," said Moss. "I'm not a celebrater. I love to do my work and go home. A lot of people see me out there in public . . . man, I've always wanted to be normal. For my whole life from elementary school up to now . . . I've been a big fan of Michael Jackson. I remember his sister or brother saying, 'Michael always just wanted to be normal.' I'm not putting myself on Michael Jackson's level, but I understood where they were coming from, I always wanted to go to the park and play a game or go shopping or go to the grocery store.

"I've always wanted to be normal," he reiterated. "Whenever people see me and they're overwhelmed that they're meeting me for the first time, I just want them to know that I'm normal. Hopefully one day, all of this will just die down and I can go play a pickup game or go to the grocery store and be normal."

Patriots defense carried chip on its shoulder all the way to the Super Bowl

Patriots defense carried chip on its shoulder all the way to the Super Bowl

FOXBORO -- It's a list that's been cited time and again as the Patriots defense rolled into the AFC title game: Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Trevor Siemien, Joe Flacco, Jared Goff, Colin Kaepernick. 

Those are the quarterbacks the Patriots have faced since their last loss, a Week 10 defeat at the hands of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. None of them ranked in the top 16 in quarterback rating during the regular season. None of them ranked in the top 19 in yards per attempt. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

The Patriots defense finished the season ranked No. 1 in points allowed, and since their last loss, they'd allowed just 12.9 points per game. Still, there were those who wondered if it was a unit that would hold up against Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on Sunday night. 

Not only did Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense hold up. It dominated. 

"They held this team to nine points for 50 minutes," Belichick said after the game during the presentation of the Lamar Hunt Trophy. "Pretty good."

The 36-17 victory may have been the defense's best effort of the season due to the competition it faced.

For many, it was a performance that will legitimize the season the unit has had. But for Patriots players, it was a performance that showcased their ability, a performance that might shut up those who cited that list of mediocre (and worse) quarterbacks as an indicator of what they hadn't done this season.

"It's not validation," said corner Eric Rowe. "We hear the reports. 'Not a great quarterback. Not a great offense.' Someone said the Chiefs have a better defense than the Patriots so the Steelers should be able to have their way. We took that chip on our shoulder so that all week and we prepared . . . We definitely prepared better than we did last week against the Texans, I know that. We kind of took that chip, and it all just came together tonight."

Even when it wasn't perfect, the Patriots were able to recover quickly. At the end of the first half, they bent but didn't break as they put together a goal-line stand that held the Steelers to a field goal after they had a first-and-goal at the one-yard line. They stood firm again in the fourth quarter by recording a turnover on downs with the Steelers deep in Patriots territory. 

That "bend-but-don't-break" label that the Patriots defense wears is one they actually wear with pride. 

"I kind of like it," safety Duron Harmon said of the description. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it. Right then and there (during the goal-line stand in the second quarter), a lot of people are thinking that's seven points. But that's a four-point turnover basically."

Execution in those critical moments, against an offense that's loaded with Pro Bowl talent, may allow the Patriots to be more widely respected. But they've known what they've had for some time, and so has their quarterback. 

He said after Sunday's AFC Championship Game victory that he's based his readiness on how well he's been able to practice against a unit that he knows is right up there with the best he's seen this season on game days. 

"There's a lot of noise, always," Brady said when asked about the chip on the defense's collective shoulder. "Sometimes you don't always have it figured out four games into the year. There's a lot of moving parts . . . I practice against those guys every day, and it's hard to complete passes.

"I know if I can complete it against our defense, then we should be fine on Sunday because our guys do a great job in the pass game. So many great pressures they got . . . They got a lot of good schemes. They got a good defense. We got a good defense. To slow down an offense like that was pretty great."